The End This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     So, I guess this is a true story. Idon’t know where it begins or ends, but here’s the middle.Bored and feeling morning-ish, I’m in the school library listeningto some of my senior friends present their portfolios. Every inch of mybody is straining to keep from screaming obscenities at the boy sittingnext to me.

Heat rises to my face and I can feel my featuressuccumb to the contortions of disgust. A girl babbles in the front ofthe room. His body is an arm’s length away and against my will Ican still remember how he tastes. There’s no one I know who ismore alive, or closer to death, than this individual.

He’salready made his presentation, and his work lies open in front of me. Icould almost laugh; it’s one of the few times I can remember thatany of his thoughts or feelings have been presented to me in a way thatI can understand. I am only cognizant of concrete things, like typedwords, not his swirling mass of ideologies.

He shifts positionand my anger rises and begins to fester like some psychological canker.How dare he write these things I’m reading? I have to admit,compared to his sophistication, my ignorance must have been amusing tohim, if nothing else. I was just something to keep him occupied. Thegirl in his story who signifies love and beauty (the two things thathave been “misplaced” in his life, so he says) is tall, darkand long-legged, with a smile that is “glossy and warm.”I’m short, blue-eyed, dirty-blondish, and obviously notwhat he would think of when lying awake at night.

His words hintthat this fantasy girl left him, like he knew she would. Yes, the one hedated before me left him, and God only knows what other secretive,alluring girls did. I’m not close to the ideal, never was, but Ifooled myself into believing I held some value in his eyes; I’mstill not enough and now I’m alone.

The printed pages jeerat me. The words tell the tale of an individual who couldn’t sharehis true thoughts and fears because no one wanted to listen;they’d think him crazy and to his ascetic personality, it justwasn’t worth it. In all of his self-righteous sufferings,he’s never looked past himself. He’s never realized thatthere was always someone who cared about hearing what he had to say, whowanted to know his ideas and ideals and hidden wounds. Me.

I’m hit with a wave of guilt. I’m judging him, theexact thing that I despised my friends for. I’m making him fitinto a neat little box that I can hate. I feel his constant tensionacutely now, his veins crawling with activity, because I can see hisfists supporting his chin, staring into space. I have to smile.He’s concerned with the sufferings of humanity, but hedoesn’t realize that the rest of that big old world out therebegins with the person next you. The people close to him are theones he hurts.

So, I think. So, there’s my cross.I know he’s always been more intelligent, more aware, morealive, more anything than me. But right now, his endless cantata ofphilosophy and ideologies and literature and knowledge and truth andmeaning is pointless to me and starting to get on my nerves. He’smissing one major point, and it’s what makes everythingworthwhile: people.

People matter in this world. There isnothing to be gained from compassion for the human condition if one isnot intimately acquainted with other people. Books, music, art; none ofit means a thing without people. Not just far-off people whomhe’ll meet some day; not just people like Nietzsche and Freud; notjust the fantasy images that dwell in his melancholic epiphanies butcommon, everyday people, too. There is value in the gift of trust andemotions from each ordinary person to each ordinary person. Thatmatters. I matter.

So here we sit. I finish this tale of his andthere’s nothing left to be said. Even my attempts to rationalizein this last half hour are meaningless. It does not matter what I do orwhat I give; none of it will ever be enough for him. He and Evelyn, hisimaginary girl of perfection and beauty, will have to do the best theycan, I suppose. I look at him again and I’m struck by how easy itmust be to lose yourself in a hallucination, to make it your reality,and then forget the realities that exist. That’s what he’sdone. It must be easier than seeing the pain you inflict on others, andeasier than feeling the pain inflicted on you.

When I see hisface, lined and old at 17, I know it’s selfish to twist his wordsinto something I can systematically reject. I know in some little cornerof my mind he’s had more suffering than I could handle. But I alsoknow there’s never been anything that mattered to me as much as hedoes. It’s so easy to condemn someone who doesn’t want you.

There’s nothing to compare to “a womanscorned,” as they say, and the fury and ache that tears at me atevery sight and thought of this young man are undeniable. Just before heleaves the room, I hand him his portfolio and his precious ideas.Looking into his eyes for a moment, there are two things I’d loveto do: forget everyone else exists and leave with him, or stab him inthat mocking face with my pen.

He exits the room. I sigh. Therest of my life will be spent wallowing in my passive-aggressive stateand letting weariness get the best of any intentions I’ll have.Once again, I’ve done nothing as he walks away.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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